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Recruiters Don’t Need Your Salary History — But Here’s Why They Want It

Source | Forbes : By Liz Ryan

Dear Liz,

I’ve been following you for a couple of years, and it’s been an eye-opening experience to use my voice at work and on the job-search trail.

When I first started reading your columns I was pretty unhappy at work, but it was a good enough job (especially on paper) that I didn’t want to jump into the wrong opportunity.

I started a very low-key stealth job search. I updated my LinkedIn profile and I heard from two recruiters right away.

Just as you predicted, both of them started our phone conversations by asking me “What are you earning now?” I told them I’m looking for a job in the $90K range.

One of them pushed gently (“How much is that over where you are now?”) but I pushed gently back to say “Based on my research, that’s what these jobs pay — if we agree on that it makes sense to keep talking.”

The other recruiter wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He trotted out all the ridiculous reasons you have mentioned in your columns — reasons he thought he “had to know” my current and past salaries.

I kept saying “No” and finally he said “We’re not a good fit,” which was true.

The reasonable recruiter, Jason, got me a great job that I’ve now worked in for 18 months. Jason and I keep in touch.

We had lunch last week and I asked him if his employer clients are still insisting that Jason get every candidate’s salary history.

Jason said “It’s about half and half. I’ve been able to get some of my clients to see the light. I explained to them that the more intrusive my questions are, the less easily I’m going to be able to sell their opportunities to candidates.

“The other fifty percent of my clients are inflexible. They feel that without knowing a candidate’s salary history, they can’t possibly gauge the candidate’s skills, and they don’t trust me to do it for them.

“The way I look at it is that as my brand grows, I can work with the most sophisticated and up-to-date employers and gradually let the other clients drop off my list.”

Needless to say, my current employer is high on Jason’s list (I think he filled fourteen jobs for my company in 2016). When I applied here, they didn’t ask me what I was earning at my last job.

They paid me the $90K I asked for and thanks to a very good 2016 for me and for them, I’m going to crack the six-figure mark this year.

Thanks for all you do, Liz!

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